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From this question about gunpowder in the Star Wars universe it is quoted that the shot from a slug thrower is not completely deflectable by a lightsaber. This seems to be listed as an advantage (over blasters) against lightsabers and Jedi.

For example, during the days of the Galactic Republic, mercenaries fearing an intervention by Jedi Knights used rapid-fire slugthrowers that were impossible to completely deflect, unlike blaster bolts.

This doesn't make much sense though. A slug, while maybe not as deflectable should be just as ineffective against a lightsaber as a blaster shot is, due to the nature of a lightsaber blade. That is, a blade made of plasma should simply vaporize the slug, should the slug manage to penetrate the containment field.

The weapon consisted of a blade of pure plasma emitted from the hilt and suspended in a force containment field. The field contained the immense heat of the plasma, protecting the wielder, and allowed the blade to keep its shape.

While a slug would seem to be more accurate than a blaster bolt (at least when used by a skilled marksman), I can't imagine that the slug would be faster than a bolt. Or if it is faster I wouldn't imagine it would be so fast that a Jedi would be unable to react with enough speed to block it, either with their saber or with the force. So what is the implied advantage of a slug thrower, versus a blaster, when used against a Jedi?

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9 Answers 9

up vote 33 down vote accepted

The real reason Slugs > Blasters against Jedi is really more straightforward than you'd think.

  1. Blaster bolts can be reflected, slugs will be burned up by the blade. This removes a significant counterattack from the Jedi.
  2. Slug-throwing weapons have a higher rate of fire. Jedi might seem impervious in the movies, but anyone can make a mistake. More projectiles = greater odds. Additionally, as others have pointed out, the higher rate of fire means more difficulty deflecting them.
  3. Slugs probably travel much faster than blaster bolts. While there is some controversy about the exact speeds of blaster bolts, based on a visual summary of the films it is clear that they travel much slower than even the slowest bullets on earth do. Speed counts against Jedi.
  4. Slugs are more difficult to see. While perhaps not always a total win against Jedi, less visibility is always an advantage.

Some additional notes. Why not always use slug weapons? Well, they have some drawbacks. For example, it is easier to shield against them. There exists various exotic metals in the SW universe like Durasteel. Durasteel is really only vulnerable to extremes of temperature like the blades of lightsabers and the bolts of blasters. The kinetic forces of slug weapons are simply not enough to do damage to it, even if the slugs are also made of Durasteel, they will simply bounce off. Slugs need to get very large before they can damage someone wearing Durasteel armor, and even then that damage would probably be concussive, not penetrative.

Jedi don't wear Durasteel, because it is heavy and would slow them down, and would offer little protection against their normal adversary, other lightsaber wielding foes.

Not only are they easy to shield against, they require non-compressible and heavy ammunition. Blasters work on energy and gas. In the SW universe both gas compression and energy storage are much more advanced than here on earth. This means that slug weapons are expensive to use on large scales, and require parts that need to be manufactured elsewhere rather than refilled on the planet they are being used on.

Consider the supply chain requirements for interplanetary war if you need to ship bullets between star systems? Forget about large shells.

Lastly, while less accurate, blasters also are easier to use and train in the use of. Slugthrowers are ballistic and therefore have drop-off at long ranges, are affected more by wind, and generally require more skill to use.

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In one of the Star Wars games (Jedi Outcast), you're explicitly told to use a flak gun against AI Jedi if you decide to wimp out and not duel them - it doesn't matter how fast they are, they can't stop a wall of bullets :) –  Tacroy Mar 26 '12 at 23:30
@Tacroy I would expect a Force push could just sweep that wall to one side (granted, in a VG everyone plays by strict rules). –  Xantec Mar 30 '12 at 13:39
I don't know if I believe logistics are a problem for the Star Wars universe. Their capital ships are kilometers long. That can carry a lot of bullets. –  Zan Lynx Mar 30 '12 at 16:14
@Xantec Yep IIRC the AI will do that to you on harder difficulties - that's why you're supposed to duel them. It's not that the flak gun is the best way to take them down, it's that the flak gun is the best way to take them down with a gun. –  Tacroy Mar 30 '12 at 16:17
yeah, I guess that in the SW universe, the shotgun hasn't been invented yet. Would work well against the Matrix Agents, too. But why bother with logic and sense? :) –  Jersey Sep 13 '13 at 16:19

Slugthrowers are any form of firearm. This includes everything from flintlocks to .50 cal machine guns.

Blasters typically fire a small number of bolts at relatively low speed, counting on the damage from each individual bolt to kill the target. Slugthrowers, on the other hand, do much less damage per shot. Those which would be used in combat against a Jedi would invariably be along the lines of a submachine gun or similar 'bullet hose'. In typical 3-round burst mode, that's 3 rounds per trigger pull.

Jedi can block a blaster bolt, or even several in quick succession. Against 2-3 enemies, each spitting out multiple rounds in short duration? Even Jedi speed can't keep up a defense.

It's a difference between quantity and quality. In general, blasters are better - they do far more damage. In specific circumstances, such as against a small number of Jedi, the quantity slugthrowers can put out is more effective.

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A well timed Force push coupled with Force speed would seem to negate those assets outside of anything other than a perfect ambush. –  Xantec Mar 25 '12 at 15:24
@Xantec - speed would help them run away, but I doubt a force push could be powerful enough to cancel the kinetic energy of a rifle round - Even an extermely powerful push (like from Windu in the Clone Wars tv series) usually only serves to knock an opponent down and slightly back (when not used against a single foe). Against 30 bullets? No chance. –  Jeff Mar 26 '12 at 2:30
Canceling the energy of a rifle round shouldn't be too difficult with the force. According to calculations, stopping a large-caliber round takes about 1,000 N of force. Top boxers' punches can exert forces in excess of 2,000 N. So to stop and redirect a single bullet? Easy with the force. A hail of bullets? Who knows, but "size matters not" –  SSumner Jun 21 '12 at 19:52
@SSumner: Reaction times also have to be taken into account. It takes focus and concentration to affect something with the Force, and targeting something the size of a bullet mid-flight is hard to do, even if your reflexes have no lag. –  Jeff Jun 21 '12 at 19:56
@Jeff - wouldn't the same logic hold for blocking blasters? Targeting a small object about the same size? The difference would be that the bullet has mass that would impart force, which might make them more difficult to block in large numbers –  SSumner Jun 21 '12 at 21:29

A slug, vaporized or not, possesses mass x travelling at speed y, which is where its power to harm comes from. To protect against it, what matters is that its trajectory is changed.

Discounting any magnetic effects that would quickly be countered with non-magnetic slugs, the wielder would need to exert a force equal to good old F=MA to redirect it back 180 degrees (twice that force, actually), and less than that to merely redirect it around the wielder harmlessly.

So the question seems to be: does a lightsaber exert force the way a real saber would? I think the answer from the behavior of cuts in the series is generally ”no” - they act as purely cutting blades, except against each other.

So why aren't the storm troopers using AK-47s? Because that wouldn't look nearly as cool.

Actually, having said that, that would look pretty cool.

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An equal force would stop the bullet dead, you'd need twice that to redirect it 180 degrees, wouldn't you? –  Izkata Mar 25 '12 at 15:52
@Izkata you would indeed. –  Pureferret Mar 25 '12 at 15:55
@chris - "why aren't the storm troopers using AK-47s" - see my answer to the original question. They weren't meant to fight Jedi (either before the Order 66 day, or after) with some very rare exceptions, and against non-Jedi the blasters are better. –  DVK Mar 25 '12 at 16:20
@Izkata - ach! I made the Mythbusters mistake. –  Chris B. Behrens Mar 25 '12 at 22:14

Do the lightsabers actually vaporize the slugs, or would they instead melt the slugs? If they do indeed melt the slugs instead of vaporizing them, I don't think the lightsaber would nullify the momentum of the slugs' mass; the Jedi would have a wad of molten slugs flying at them.

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Vaporizing something doesn't nullify its momentum either... –  Michael Borgwardt Oct 25 '12 at 12:31

Besides the points listed already by other answers, there is one main difference. Using a blaster against a Jedi is giving him another weapon, that is if he can reflect your blaster bolts. With a slug thrower any deflections are vapourised, and thus cannot harm you.

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I would speculate that slugs are effective only because Jedi are typically not expecting them.

The problem with using physical objects against Jedi is that properly trained Jedi can exert very powerful telekinesis--certainly strong enough to push slugs woefully far off target. Since blaster bolts are mostly energy, they are apparently not subject to the Jedi's telekinesis abilities. Thus, even against Jedi, blasters are superior weapons.

However, since blasters are widespread and slug-throwers are not, most Jedi apparently haven't trained to use telekinetic powers to protect themselves. Thus, they are effective simply by virtue of being surprising. If they became widespread, they would lose both their surprise value and their effectiveness.

A few other details: slugs should be less accurate than blasters, given that firing a slug causes recoil, and gravity (and wind) affects the slug. Also, although one does need to conserve kinetic energy when "blocking" slugs, the lightsaber could vaporize the slug into two vapor streams that went on either side of the lightsaber blade, both of which avoided the Jedi. This need not require the Jedi to exert much force. The problem would be the rate of arrival of the slugs; one needs time to move the blade to block multiple slugs. (In general, one could position the blade to catch the first two slugs, but then would have to move it to catch the third.)

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In general, one could position the blade to catch the first two slugs, but then would have to move it to catch the third. The same applies to blocking bolts, which they don't seem to have too much trouble with (as long as they aren't ambushed). –  Xantec Mar 30 '12 at 13:42
@Xantec - The rate of fire of bolts is much lower, leaving more time to reorient the blade. –  Rex Kerr Mar 30 '12 at 15:15

Think about it as a difference in projectile purpose.

A bolt from a blaster is meant to burn through an object (as stated before increase the heat of whatever is attempting to stop it)

A bullet is meant to penetrate an object and flatten causing internal damage and to drain the fluid of the bodys hydraulic system.

A lightsaber blade and a blaster bolt are made of matter in similar states, so if one interacts with another they can repel (bouncing a ball off a hard surface; matter in like states interacting with one another)

A lightsaber blade and a "slug" are made of matter in different states. If one were to fire something in a small caliber (9mm .45 .50 BMG) it would be similar to throwing Jupiter into the Sun (addition of substantial mass, vaporization and inclusion into plasma stream).

Now if we were able to redefine the term "slug" as a large bore lead projectile fired at high velocity (large bore meaning larger in diameter than the blade of a lightsaber). Then the answer to this question becomes obvious.

Other than constant use of the force to move a heavy object travelling at high velocity (which unless you were very powerful in the force would be very straining). It would be impossible for a Jedi to defend themselves, without using some kind of shield array.

On a side note, just to throw a science monkey wrench into the works. Plasma (contained or not) is incapable of moving slower than a solid projectile. We currently have "un-contained" plasma weapons in use in the militaries of the world and they travel at thousands of feet per second.

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Link for military plasma weapons? –  Mazura Sep 6 '14 at 0:49

I've looked at everyone one of your comments and there's one thing that is never mentioned, recoil. I've looked at videos of blasters being fired and the recoil on the weapons doesn't seem that bad. However with "slug throwers" there is usually a lot of recoil that must be dealt with, which is probably one of the reasons behind burst firing. However, in the movies and cartoons you repeatedly see users (mostly clonetroopers) firing rapidly from the hip or shoulder height with fairly good accuracy. Why I'm bringing up recoil is because it causes the bullets to spread around an area more. If the plasma rounds from blasters are not affected by normal ballistics like a bullets would, and would always shoot straight along with little to no recoil from the gun then the spread would be significantly less than that of a slugthrower. This accuracy combined with the other factors already noted could be why jedi are able to deflect blaster bolts effectively. Slugthrowers with high rates of fire and more recoil would be much more random in trajectory and would have a much wider spread, so a jedi would have a harder time predicting where the path of the bullets.

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This is just a crazy dream of mine...

Imagine being a Jedi accustomed to foes armed with blasters, which fire a really hot bubble of plasma at a slower velocity than a slug made of some sort of ferrous projectile.

The Force allows you to react to the incoming threat, but while the slower firing and moving blaster bolt is easy enough to react to, it's much harder to react to a burst of up to a dozen high-velocity projectiles from a single weapon at close range. While you can visualize and focus on the path of a few bolts of searing hot gas as they approach you, the salvo of solid projectiles is slightly less obvious and harder to see coming. From using your lightsaber to deflect a few incoming objects that are more apparent to your force-sensitive nature, you now not only have to focus on a dozen or so little metal pieces of up-yours which are travelling at higher speed, but you also have to focus on how they're going to be affected by gravity and how they will be intercepting you and most of all, how many dozens to hundreds of these objects which may be flung at you within a short period of time. It's not as though it's not possible, but it certainly is alot more tiring...

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The Jedi doesn't react to the bolt itself, but uses the Force to sense danger in the near future and how to avoid or block it. From a living being the Jedi can also sense the intent to do harm. –  Zan Lynx Jul 9 '13 at 21:23

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